Video: POSTGAME | Wild 1 Jets 0 - F
ST. PAUL, MN - With more than 10 regulars back home in Winnipeg to give the kids and "bubble" guys at least one more look, the baby Jets had something to prove with the ever-watchful eyes of the coaching and scouting staff looking on, pen in hand.
For the most part, the Jets gave their opponents a run for their money, but the offence didn't come easy and the Wild escaped with a slim, 1-0 victory.
"These guys have been here for five or six days. They had a pretty good handle on what we were trying to do, so we were able to take a young group in here and keep it tight, keep it close and play a pretty smart game," said Head Coach Paul Maurice.
Jared Spurgeon scored the game's only goal midway through the second period after the home side pressed in the Winnipeg zone for nearly a minute. Spurgeon took a pass from Charlie Coyle, walked in off the right circle and buried a shot high over the blocker to give his team the only lead they would need.
Connor Hellebuyck finished with 22 saves in a losing cause.
Video: WPG@MIN: Hellebuyck stops Kunin on the doorstep
While the Wild iced a veteran lineup more closely resembling their opening-night roster, Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers, Bryan Little, Dustin Byfuglien, Toby Enstrom, Tyler Myers, Dmitry Kulikov, Josh Morrissey, Steve Mason and more stayed behind for the Jets.
But it was a hard-fought game from the youngsters and according to Matt Hendricks, they deserved a better fate.
"There was a lot more experience over in their lineup and I applaud our group," he said. "There was a lot of work ethic out there, we worked hard in the dirty, tough areas. I give Hellebuyck a lot of credit - he made the big saves when he had to. I thought we deserved a goal tonight, at least, and force that one into overtime.
"It was a team game tonight. A real detailed game by our group."
Video: POSTGAME | Matt Hendricks
With fewer penalties (only six minors), Maurice was able to get everyone into the game, and put individuals into situations where they could succeed.
Kyle Connor, for example, had a better night after and believes his game is starting to round into form after playing only eight minutes in Monday's preseason opener.
"We're only two preseason games in, but you've got to start right away and show (the coaches) what you can do," he said. "Going into this one I knew I was going to get more opportunities to play on the power play, and it felt good to get some more touches and really harness my game."
"You always want to see skilled players score," Maurice added. "It was a slogging, grinding-type game. He didn't score, but there's a lot of improvement in Kyle's game. He's still a young player and he's going to play for the Winnipeg Jets and score a bunch of goals for us. When that starts, I'm not sure."
Video: POSTGAME | Paul Maurice
Defenceman Cameron Schilling was also among the standouts, playing 21:21 alongside Jacob Trouba on the top D pair. Schilling, who signed a free-agent contract with the Jets back on Jul. 1, had two hits, two blocks and good in his own end all game - a fine night for the 28-year-old.
Trailing by one, the Jets' hopes of tying the game were quashed in the final two minutes when back-to-back minor penalties gave the Wild a 5-on-3 for the rest of the game. First, it was Brendan Lemieux called for hooking and then just 23 seconds later, JC Lipon was flagged for a faceoff violation.
While the opening frame was curiously devoid of goals an umpteen power-play chances due to the NHL's crackdown on slashing, it was, in fact, Winnipeg's best period of the preseason. The Jets officially recorded only five shots on Minnesota goalie Alex Stalock, but the pace was good, they were sound in their own end and their breakout passes were decisive and clean, giving their skilled forwards time and space to make a play up ice.
But on this night, they just didn't have the firepower.
Video: WPG Recap: Offense stalls as Jets fall to Wild, 1-0
"This was pretty close to a lot of the games in the NHL. Different talent level, but there's no easy ice and this type of game is so new to young players," Maurice said. "Every shift, someone's on you and you've got to check someone when they've got the puck. There was a lot I liked about the game in terms of helping me decide what that group is going to look on."
Hendricks closed his post-game interview by offering some advice to some of the younger players fighting for a roster spot:
"It's all about bringing what you bring. Be the type of player a coach can rely on in tough situations and find your niche, your role on a team and in the locker room. You have to make every day count and be consistent at it day and day out."
Only four games remain before we get going for real.
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com